When most writers feel burnt out, what they’re dealing with is creative burnout. This type of burnout strikes directly at your muse, causing you to feel exhausted, rudderless, and wholly uninspired.
Luckily, this kind of creative burnout is a common topic in the writing world. More and more writers are learning how to prepare for burnout before it strikes, equipping themselves with the positive habits they need to banish burnout for good.
Except, not quite…
Believe it or not, the risk of burnout doesn’t end once your book is published.
Building your author platform, promoting your latest release, or gaining new readers is a constant worry for authors. For self-published authors especially, the pressure couldn’t be higher. All of this creates the perfect recipe for burnout—specifically, for book marketing burnout.
- How to identify book marketing burnout
- Why book marketing creates the perfect storm for burnout
- And nine steps you can take to get your marketing efforts back on track
Table of contents
The Symptoms of Book Marketing Burnout
Burnout is something many writers are familiar with, but it’s also something you might struggle to admit. It’s easy to make excuses for why you’re feeling exhausted or worn down—especially when admitting you’re burnt out means facing the fact that your marketing efforts aren’t working.
So, how do you know when you’re experiencing burnout, rather than just getting sick?
Well, burnout (no matter the specific type) is defined as a feeling of intense emotional or mental exhaustion. This is usually a result of extreme stress. Many things can trigger this stress, but some common causes are:
- Having more work than you can realistically complete
- Never giving your brain time to rest and recover
- Pressuring yourself to be perfect or “keep up with the Joneses”
- Not having a support system to lean on
Whatever your trigger is, this burnout manifests as a lack of motivation, feelings of depression, and an inability to get excited about things you used to enjoy. You might even start to hate your books or avoid writing altogether.
There are physical symptoms of burnout too:
- Persistent headaches
- Upset stomach
- Difficulty sleeping
- Constant fatigue
All of these are signs that you might be burnt out—and, as you can hopefully see, this goes beyond normal stress. Feeling stressed by your work (even your beloved books) is to be expected on occasion. However, that stress should always have an end in sight. Being stressed because of an upcoming book launch is normal. Having that stress linger for months afterwards is less so.
NOTE: Burnout and writer’s block may sound similar, but they’re actually very different things. For more on those differences, check out this article.
Why Marketing Is So Overwhelming
With the symptoms of burnout in mind, you might be wondering: “Why does book marketing lend itself to burnout in particular?”
As most authors know, marketing is vital to a book’s success. After all, you need to reach new readers to sell more books (hot take, I know)! This means making the most of everything from ads to email marketing, social media, podcast interviews, guest appearances, and more.
On their own, these tactics are a great way to expand your audience. However, they can also become overwhelming very quickly.
There’s a ton of pressure on self-published authors to be everywhere and do everything—so much so that many authors spend more time marketing than writing. It’s easy to tell yourself that, because the authors around you are doing it, you have to too. Otherwise, you fear you’ll fall behind.
All of this creates the perfect storm.
The intense pressure to market your book and the dozens of ways you can do so pile on until your brain shuts down. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day, and eventually you burn out.
Nine Ways to Overcome Book Marketing Burnout
Though it’s sometimes difficult to admit, I spent most of 2020 suffering from severe burnout (creative, marketing, and everything in between). Obviously, a lot was going on that year, but I can still remember how hard book marketing felt in particular. I was juggling so many different tasks that, eventually, it just became too much.
Fortunately, after a lot of self-reflection and some helpful advice from other authors, I was able to get my act together. So, here are the tactics I used to overcome book marketing burnout and develop a healthier relationship with my writing life.
1. Stop What You're Doing
Before you do anything else, start by hitting the brakes.
Though you might try to tell yourself otherwise, burnout is a sign that your current marketing tactics aren’t working. Even if you’re selling tons of books and making a solid living (which, hey, good on you!) being a happy, healthy writer requires a balance.
Burnout is not that balance.
So, before we can talk about goals or automation, give yourself some time off. Take a weekend to rest. Heck, take a whole week! You’ll come back once that time is up with a clearer perspective and a better grasp on what you want for the future.
2. Assess Your Efforts
Once you’ve taken a break from book marketing and started to recover, it’s time to figure out where you’ll go from here. You obviously don’t want to end up burnt out again, so… what’s next?
Well, this is a good time to assess your efforts.
Grab a sheet of paper and write down everything you do to market your books. This might be obvious things like posting on social media or running a newsletter swap, but it could also be:
- Managing your Amazon Advertising dashboard
- Creating graphics for Pinterest, Instagram, or Twitter
- Reaching out about guest appearances or interviews
- Setting up ARC teams for your next release
- Crafting reader magnets and bonuses for your fans
- Writing blog posts about your process
- Optimizing your book’s categories and keywords to boost visibility
- Running price promotions on your back catalog
- Experimenting with new advertising platforms and opportunities
Whatever your book marketing looks like, get it down on paper. Then, write down how much each of these tactics costs, both in terms of your money and time. Finally, record your results. On a scale of 1-10, how successful would you consider each tactic? Is it producing the kinds of results you want? If you have hard numbers, include those here as well.
3. Get Clear on Your Goals
Alongside your list of marketing tactics, you’ll also want to understand your goals:
- What are you trying to achieve with your book marketing efforts?
- Why are you trying to achieve it?
- When do you want to reach this goal by?
For this step, saying “I want to make more money,” or “I want to sell more books,” isn’t enough. Instead, make your goals specific, such as “I want to make 30k this year from my author business,” or “I want to sell 200 books every month.”
From there, you can take this one step further. Ask yourself… What does success mean to you?
This can be tricky to answer, because success is unique to each individual author. Still, understanding what being a successful author means to you will go a long way in helping you understand your goals, as well as ensure they’re in alignment with what you truly want.
If they aren’t, don’t be afraid to change them!
4. Trim the Fat
Burnout is often caused by feeling overwhelmed, unable to finish your to-do list without a herculean effort. While you might be able to handle that on occasion, no one can deal with that level of stress for weeks on end.
This means one of the best ways to handle book marketing burnout is to reduce your marketing efforts.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. That sounds crazy! If you reduce your marketing, you’ll lose sales, miss out on new readers, and maybe even fail as an author—right?
Well, no, not really! Remember that tactics list from earlier? If you followed my advice, you wrote down not only the tactic itself, but also how much it cost and how effective it was. Was it creating the results you wanted? Was it worth the time and energy you put in? If you answered no to either of these questions, it probably warrants being crossed off your list. Though it might feel scary now, you’ll be better off focusing your efforts where they’re most productive.
5. Play to Your Strengths
Of course, even after you’ve crossed items off your book marketing to-do list, you’ll probably still have a lot left on your plate. There are tons of excellent marketing options out there, meaning lots of ways you could be spending your time.
This is where doubling down on the things you enjoy becomes helpful. All writers have strengths and weaknesses, whether in writing, marketing, or anything in between. Perhaps you love design, and thus enjoy platforms like Instagram or Pinterest. Or, maybe you communicate best via video, and love to connect with readers through interviews and livestreams.
With your strengths in mind, consider these two questions:
- What book marketing tactics are you especially confident in?
- Which ones do you enjoy doing or get excited about?
- What are some tactics that are new to you, but that sound promising?
Whatever your favorites are, this is where you should spend most of your time. If you’re enjoying yourself, that positivity will shine through! Not only will this improve your results, but you’ll also be less likely to feel overwhelmed too.
6. Don't Be Everywhere
In the age of social media, most authors feel like they need to be on every platform. From Twitter to Instagram, Pinterest, and even LinkedIn, a lot of us are dealing with serious social media overload.
This trend needs to stop. As I’ve said many times now, there simply aren’t enough hours in the day, and trying to be everywhere inevitably leads to burnout.
Because of this, marketing your book in a few targeted places should be your goal.
To do this, find the overlap between where your readers hang out and where you actually enjoy being. This particularly applies to social media, but it works with other platforms too. If most of your readers are on Kindle, Amazon ads are probably worth focusing on, while Google ads might not be—just as one example.
No matter where you spend your time, home in on the one or two platforms you truly benefit from. Then, don’t hesitate to ditch the rest.
7. Automate What You Can
Authors are incredibly fortunate these days. Even ten years ago, a lot of important writing tasks were completely analog, whereas now there's a whole suite of excellent tools available to simplify our work.
If you’re suffering from book marketing burnout, these tools become especially valuable.
Perhaps you need to help managing your author newsletter, in which case a platform like Convertkit is a great option. Maybe you want a way to schedule social media posts in advance, such as with a program like Tailwind. Or, perhaps you’re trying to boost your visibility with stronger keywords, making Publisher Rocket worth its weight in gold.
Which of these options is right for you will depend on what you’re struggling with—and, like your book marketing efforts themselves, you don’t need to use every tool available.
Still, automating parts of your marketing is a great way to not only reduce your daily workload, but also give yourself the space to take time off. Even when you’re relaxing, these systems will chug away, ensuring your book is reaching the right readers.
8. Find Your Peers
One key cause of burnout that’s often overlooked is a lack of social support. Having a supportive network of friends and family who both encourage us and tell us when to take breaks is vital to our happiness. However, family and friends don’t always understand the specific challenges authors face—which is where finding other self-published authors becomes important.
Because of this, one of the best ways to combat book marketing burnout is to find your peers.
These peers are other authors who are at a similar point in their writing journey. Their audience is about the same size as yours, they write in a similar genre, and they’ve likely been at this for about the same amount of time.
While you certainly shouldn’t limit your network to only these peers, having a few author friends who are in your same shoes is invaluable.
For starters, you can help each other with your book marketing efforts, such as through newsletter swaps or social media shout outs. More importantly, you can also provide moral support. Having someone to go to for advice and camaraderie is perhaps the best way to mitigate the stress of the writing life. So, as intimidating as it may be, don’t be afraid to reach out to your writing peers. You never know when a lifelong friendship will form!
9. Take the Pressure Off
Finally, no one is perfect, and trying to be perfect is a recipe for misery. Ask me how I know…
Unfortunately, in the world of book marketing, perfection is often the goal. We’re constantly told that our marketing needs to be perfect in order to compete in such a crowded industry. Thousands of books are jockeying for readers' attention, meaning we have to get everything just right in order to “win” that top spot. No matter what our goals are, there’s a constant pressure to succeed.
Quite frankly, this pressure is bogus.
Everyone fails, whether that’s a full on “crash and burn” or simply a minor misstep. Trying to avoid this is fruitless and only exacerbates the stress of being an author.
So, to avoid getting trapped by burnout in the future, allow yourself to make mistakes. Forgive yourself when something goes wrong, and learn from it when you can. Above all, don’t treat taking a break like admitting defeat. If your book marketing efforts start to feel overwhelming again, press pause! Return to the parts of writing you deeply enjoy, whether that’s crafting a vibrant protagonist or outlining your next story.
When you’re ready to dive back in, your books will be waiting for you.
Finding the Right Balance
Book marketing burnout is a scary thing. We all want our books to thrive, and marketing is a key part of that, despite the challenges it brings.
Still, if you truly want to succeed, you have to strike a balance.
Know how to identify burnout when it hits, and don’t be afraid to give yourself time to rest when you need it. Get clear on your tactics and goals and then ditch the things that aren’t working for you. Double down on what you enjoy most, automate the rest, and find a writing community that will support you. Above all, don’t expect perfection.
As uncertain as the road ahead might seem now, you’ll come out the other side stronger than ever!